iPods, headphones fly out of machines

So, you don't think anyone would buy an iPod out of a vending machine?

Officials at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport would beg to differ. Since Zoom Systems began installing its vending machines there last October, airport visitors have bought about 2,450 iPods worth $200 or more.

In fact, the machines have sold more than $600,000 worth of electronics priced at $200 or more. Almost all of that came from iPod sales, although the airport says travelers also bought a number of the $549 Shure noise-canceling headphones.

The vending machines have brought in more than $1.5 million from various products selling from $99 to more than $500.

"It's phenomenal," says Ken Buchanan, the airport's executive vice president of revenue management. "We're expecting over $2 million in sales to come through these machines" this year, he said, with sales continuing to increase. D/FW Airport gets to pocket 10 percent to 12 percent of gross revenue.

The airport has 15 Zoom machines spread through its five terminals. Michael Baldwin, an assistant vice president in D/FW's concessions department, said the vendor will soon install a vending machine at the airport's rental car center as well.

Jan Collmer, chairman of the airport's board of directors, which approved the Zoom contract last year, calls the sales figures "stunning."

"I was enthusiastic about it, but who knew what it would do?" Mr. Collmer marveled. "They've done $1.5 million worth of business out of vending machines. No operational cost. A guy comes and restocks it once a week."

One thought is that travelers are buying the devices to take care of the tedium of travel. But Mr. Collmer, who owns several iPods and plans to buy the latest models announced Wednesday, thinks otherwise.

"The problem about buying one if you're using it on a trip is that you have nothing loaded on it," he said. "You have to actually engage it with your computer and load your music, and that takes some effort."

He thinks travelers are buying them at the end of trips.

"It's my guess that it's traveling fathers and mothers taking something home for their teenage son or daughter," he said.